Stone chips exports to India double on high demand
Export of stone chips, an important construction ingredient, to India doubled in the last two years, thanks to its high demand from Tripura and Methalaya, the two north-eastern states of the neighbouring country.
Sector people say although India is a natural source of stone, the two states import the construction material from Bangladesh since it is cost effective for the users there. They also point to the fact that the Indian construction contractors prefer collecting Bangladeshi stone to the one available in different parts of their own country, as transportation costs much more than it costs in case of the import from Bangladesh.
"Last year we exported around one crore cubic feet (cft) of crushed stone to the Indian states and the demand was created due to huge construction works in those regions," said Abdul Ahad, president of Bangladesh Stone Merchants Association (BSMA).
The annual sales of stone chips to India were between 50 and 60 lakh cft two years back, the sector people said.
In the Indian market, each cft of crushed stones costs around Tk 120, while it ranges from Tk 100 to Tk 120 in Dhaka.
"Though crushed stones price is almost the same in Dhaka and in export markets of India, we can make a little bit more profit by exporting because of the low transportation cost," said Abdul Matin Khan, general secretary of BSMA.
It costs around Tk 29 to transport each cft of crushed stone from Sylhet to Dhaka, while it ranges from Tk 15 to Tk 17 to send it to India, Khan added.
Besides earning foreign currency, crushed stone exports have also created job opportunities for around 10 lakh peopledirectly and indirectly, according to industry insiders.
They, however, denied any environment pollution extracting stones by machine, though the government slapped an embargo on it in February.
Jafflong and Volaganj of Sylhet are the main sources for natural stone in the country.
The embargo was enforced to save environment of the rivers of Piyain and Dauki in Sylhet, a source of the 75 percent of stone supply.
However, manual extraction of stones was allowed. Restrictions led to drastic reduction of stone collection, followed by supply crunch and price hike.
"Though we are exporting stone chips to Tripura and Meghalaya, a few companies have also started importing stone from India due to short of supply from the domestic source,", said the BSMA president.
Following the government embargo, some local contractors, who signed deals at the previous stone chips rate, have suffered a huge loss due to price hike of stones.